The Daily Line: Making Hockey More Fun Than VERSUS Shows That Are Actually Dedicated to Hockey
May 14, 2010 4 Comments
Back in 1995, ESPN debuted a show called NHL2Night. It was a show that dedicated 30 minutes every night to the NHL and it’s games and highlights. It would air five nights a week, including after any game that ESPN or ESPN2 aired. It had a golden era from 1998-2004, when John Buccigross, Barry Melrose, and sometimes Ray Ferraro spent every night being entertaining, informed and passionate. But above all, let’s be honest, they entertained. Buccigross’ schtick can run thin at times, but it never felt that way when he talked NHL. It just came off as a passionate guy trying to tell you about his sport in the most fun way possible.
Currently, VERSUS airs the National Hockey League and airs a show called Hockey Central. It typically airs two nights a week, after VERSUS broadcasts of NHL games, but it picked up to three and four nights in the last weeks of this season (as broadcasts per week increased) and now airs pretty much every night during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can tell that the host, Bill Patrick, and the analysts, Keith Jones and Brian Engblom, love the sport and are doing the best they can. They have made improvements (360 cam is awesome) and are trying new people out, but frankly, the show is still about as exciting as an episode of Meet the Press in a non-election year.
After it’s NHL coverage, VERSUS airs a show called The Daily Line. Though technically a show dedicated to all sports, it has been focused on hockey for almost 3/4ths of the show since the telecasts have been hockey-centric. Former New Jersey Devils defenseman and current Devils analyst on MSG Plus, Ken Daneyko has been what is essentially a co-host. He has been entertaining, funny, and informative (a bit on Wednesday in which Daneyko, in-depth, explained fighting was hilarious, and could be useful if they taught… some other aspects of hockey) and has given the show a little personality from the real world of sports.
Also on the show has been frequent phoned-in guest Jeremy Roenick, a 500-goal scorer and outspoken analyst who hasn’t found himself a regular gig since retiring. He’s been everything advertised, but a little bit restrained due to the fact that he’s on the phone. In a studio, especially on NBC’s Olympic coverage, he was great. He can be an exciting, anything-goes presence that the NHL on TV desperately needs. Maybe not as outrageous as Charles Barkley, but there’s a chance for him to make a name for himself, and The Daily Line is certainly not deterring those notions.
In addition to those two, Puck Daddy editor Greg Wyshynski has been calling into the show for them this week and quite a few times in the shows existence. As I know from personal experience, Wyshynski is typically a hilarious, knowledgeable presence on a network which airs hockey telecasts that usually rely on people who are only knowledgeable, not entertaining or funny. I’ve found myself more interested in the occasionally neutered, but mostly highly watchable (shocking for American hockey chat) episodes of this show.
So a suggestion for VERSUS: Dump the current Hockey Central panel. Dump the desk format, but keep the studio. Allow a flexible studio show with Wyshynski, Daneyko and Roenick every night, debating hockey and doing a little bit of educating on the sport for the people who still think casual fans need to be pandered to. If anyone’s going to pander to the viewers, why not let it be these guys? You’ve got the former superstar in Roenick, the rough-and-tumble, surprisingly well-liked Daneyko, and the regular guy in Wyshynski who can just talk hockey without the typical player-speak.
Oh, and hosting? Aw, what the hell, let’s just give Jenn Sterger more time on TV. I can’t say I thought out all of this that well. But why not? If you give it time to develop, there can be a Don Cherry-esque “what are they gonna’ do?” factor to a revamped Hockey Central that the show simply doesn’t have right now. Give it some thought, eh?